New analysis of June 6 primary: Republicans gained on Democrats

Aug. 2, 2012

By Katy Grimes

Democrats should be upset and Republicans smiling at the numbers from the June 5 primary, a new analysis shows. That’s contrary to the popular belief that Republicans are faltering in the Golden State.

Primary voters can usually be counted on as staunch partisan voters. However, the primary results in California showed that there were significant numbers of Democrats who not vote in the Democratic presidential primary.

President Barack Obama received more than 280,000 votes less than California’s U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein in her primary, and more than 340,000 fewer votes than the cumulative Democratic Assembly vote, indicating a real weakness for the upcoming November election. It appears that many Democrats are disenchanted with their president. He still should win the state, but not by the more than 3 million margin he did against Republican John McCain in 2008. That could spell trouble for Obama in other states.

Across the state of California, voters have already begun showing their anger at the Democratic-controlled Legislature by voting against Democratic incumbents, as well as voting against even former Democratic legislators attempting a comeback.

There are five Democratic Assembly members facing a same party runoff in November.

“Top Two” Primary

There also appears to be frustration among Democrats with the new “Top Two” primary voting system passed in 2010.

The June 2012 primary election was the first California election using the Top Two Candidate Open Primary system for statewide offices.

According to the League of Women Voters, the Top Two rules mean that:

* All candidates for a given state or congressional office will be listed on a single primary election ballot.

* Voters can vote for the candidate of their choice for these offices.

* The top two candidates, as determined by the voters, will advance to the General Election in November.

“Twenty California State Senate seats were up for election — half the total number of seats in the upper house of the Legislature,” the Independent Voter reported the day after the election.

The Public Policy Institute of California reported that more incumbents faced primary challenges from within their own party this year than they have on average in the last five election cycles.

The PPIC also found that there were majority-vote winners in 40 out of 80 Assembly primaries. In Senate races, 16 of 20 primaries ended with a majority-vote winner. And in U.S. House races, 35 of 53 candidates received more than half of the vote.

But after the primary, many in the state were incredulous that the majority vote winners would still face a challenger in November.


Proposition 29, the tobacco tax initiative, lost in a close race, 49.8 percent to 50.2 percent. Interestingly, the vote by county was nearly a predictable party-line vote. The heavily Democratic counties voted to pass Prop. 29 by heavy margins, while more the more Republican counties voted “no” on the tobacco tax.

Proposition 28 was another story altogether. The initiative was deceptively written and voters thought they were casting a protest vote against the Legislature and imposing stricter term limits.

Pension reform initiatives did very well in San Diego and San Jose, and easily won passage with large margins.

Angry voters

Five Democratic Assembly members fared poorly in June and will face a same-party runoffs in November:

* Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, received only 38 percent of the vote against largely unknown candidates.

* Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, received only 31 percent of the vote and will be in a same-party runoff in November.

* Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, only 41 percent of the vote.

* Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, received only 53 percent of the vote against only one challenger who was a “No Party Preference” candidate.

* Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, lost with 43 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Joe Gardener, who received 45 percent of the vote. The NPP candidate received 11 percent of the vote in this race.

* Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Torrance, was in a near tied race with two other Democrats and one Republican challenger. Butler received only 25.8 percent of the vote. In the November runoff, she will face Richard Bloom, who got 25.6 percent. But close behind was Tori Osborn with 24.3 percent. Republican challenger Bradly Torgan received 24.4 percent.

* Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, received only 41 percent of the vote in a race with two Democratic and one Republican challenger. Republican Kenny Coble received 37.5 percent of the vote.

Assembly Democrats running for state Senate did not fare well

* In Senate District 5, Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Fresno, received only 41 percent of the vote, while two Republican challengers combined received 59 percent. Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, received 35.8 percent of the vote.

* Senate District 39: Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego, received only 46.3 percent, while Republican challenger George Plescia received 43.7 percent of the vote. A Democratic challenger received 10 percent.

* In Congressional District 2, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, received only 37.5 percent of the vote.

* Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, running for Congressional District 26, received only 27 percent of the vote against Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, who received 44.1 percent.

Former Democratic legislators did not do well

* Former Assemblyman Richard Alacaron was trounced in Assembly District 39. Alacaron received only 26.9 percent of the vote, while a Democratic challenger, CSU Professor Raul Bocanegra, also Alacaron’s former aide, received 36.2 percent of the vote. The LA Weekly called the results “humiliating.”

* Former Assemblyman Joe Baca received only 42.3 percent of the vote and will be facing a Top Two runoff in november.

* Former Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez lost to newcomer Ian Claderon, also a Democrat and a member of the political Calderon family, 27.7 percent to 28.5 percent.

* Former Assemblyman Tom Calderon placed third in a race with six candidates.

* Sen. Fran Pavely, D-Agoura Hilla lost to unknown Republican Todd Zink, 48.9 percent to 51.1 percent.

* Former Assemblyman Steve Clute came in third in a three-candidate race.

* Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, came in third behind Democrat Scott Peters, losing by only 719 votes, and Republican Brian Bilbray, who garnered 41 percent of the vote.

Projected turnout for November

Of the 17 million registered voters who turned out for the primary, 7.4 million were Democrats, 5.1 million were Republicans, and approximately 4.5 million were Independents, Green Party, Libertarian, or “other.” So Democrats held an edge there.

However, Republicans, although lower in numbers, were more likely to turn out to vote. Turnout by party was: Democrats 23 percent, Republicans 30 percent, Independents 26 percent.

The projected turnout for November looks very strong for both Republicans and Democrats, but favors Republicans. Republican registrations are up significantly in the state, as are Independents; 500,000 more Independents, Decline-to-State and Third Party people voted than in the June 2008 state primary. The turnout is expected to increase significantly in the November general election.

Angry voters will make a difference in California. We all can expect to see a great deal of change in the Legislature next year, and new legislators will be facing a state on the brink of disaster.

 (Voter results and information is available from the California Secretary of State’s Statement of Vote for the June 2012 primary.)

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